2 Guys Talking: Interview with Mets Legend, Bud Harrelson

Mike & Buddy talking 1When attending the Community Wiffle Ball Tournament for Madison Square Boys & Girls Club, sponsored by Nesquik, on Sunday, I was able to convince Mets legend Bud Harrelson to sit down for a brief interview.

 

Mike:

You mentioned in your book Turning Two that Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were your favorite players growing up. Were there any shortstops that you also admired?

Bud:

Maury Wills. I just saw Maury at a signing, in fact Pete Rose was there too. Maury was a little older when he finally got called up and I told him I didn’t hit lefthanded until late, Triple A, and he started late too. He had that speed too.

It wasn't always friendly greetings at card shows for Bud Harrelson and Pete Rose.

It wasn’t always friendly greetings at card shows for Bud Harrelson and Pete Rose.

Mike:

Stengel was the one who started you switch hitting, right?

Bud:

Yes, Stengel said you have a good swing from the left side. He was fun to be around, I spent time with him, he was an advisor when he taught me to hit lefthanded. Westrum was the manager, and I got a start against Hoyt Wilhem, and he threw me a knuckleball and I got a base hit, and then they considered me a switch hitter.

And then Gil came, and he platooned a lot, and being a switch hitter helped keep me in a lot of games. Gil actually liked me better as a lefthanded hitter. I was always glad I did it.

Mike:

Oh, yeah, I always felt that although you had a little more pop righty, that overall, you were effective lefty. The bunts —

Bud:

Yes, I was a good bunter. And I could draw a lot of walks, I talked to a lot of pitchers over the years, and they said I was a pain in the neck, actually they said a little lower than that.

Mike:

Felix MillanOur blog ran a feature series last winter, highlighting the toughest and grittiest players who have played for the Mets in their history, by position. Congratulations, you were our shortstop.

Bud:

That’s great.

Mike:

At any position, who was the “toughest” guy you played with during your years with the Mets? Not necessarily the best.

Bud:

Felix Millan was a gritty ballplayer. Hard working, played a lot of games…

Mike:

Best double play partner?

Bud:

Yeah, absolutely.

Mike:

You pointed out in your book how well you could hit Bob Gibson, and how that could tick off Bob. Anyone who was the opposite, a guy you wanted no part of?

Bud:

No, there wasn’t anybody special that I didn’t want to hit against. They didn’t like me, I was a contact hitter, even right handed. I had seven home runs in sixteen years playing, and the first one was an inside the parker, and it was always the same pitch. It was always down and in and I could use my golf swing.

Mike:

When I think of you, your defense is what I think of first. You were such a great defensive shortstop. Are there any shortstops playing in the majors today that you like to watch?

Bud:

I’m a Mets guy, I like Tejada, I like the way he plays, he’s not flashy, he’s smart, he moves around. I watch him, but I know that right now he’s kind of on the edge around here.

When you look at my era, there were a lot of guys who were switch hitters who weighed around 150 pounds. Now you have shortstops who are six foot two, that athlete, the bigger athlete, is well coordinated now, they hit home runs, it changes things. Years ago, that was your key defensive position.

Ozzie-Smith-Turning-Double-Play-Photograph-C12876168Now, overall, I always told Ozzie Smith, I never had to pay to get into a baseball game, but I would pay to watch you.

Mike:

I can understand that.

Bud:

And he would say “C’mon Buddy!”, ha, but man, he was something else.

Mike:

You played for two baseball legends, Gil Hodges and Yogi Berra, and spent a lot of time early in your career with another, Casey Stengel. All three managed in a very different media environment than we have today. Do you think the current world, with daily televised live press conferences, would have been a problem for any of them?

Bud:

Well, Casey was a master at it. He gave great stories, I don’t know if he ever slept, well he slept in the dugout, but he was a master at handling the press. Some of the writers would take him in sections, because he would stay up to two or three in the morning, so one shift would talk to him early, and the others would take the late shift.

In my book, the second title talked about journey, and I had a real great journey. I always seemed to be in the right place at the right time.

Mike:

You are still in it.

Bud:

I am still in it. It’s fun to still put a uniform on, to teach somebody who I think is setting up improperly, or has a bad habit, I can talk to them about it.

I did it with the Mets, when I was a coach for Davey, I worked with the infielders, Davey could too but he was busy with other things. The press.

Mike:

Again, yes, all this stuff.

Bud:

Yes, ha, all the stuff.

Mike:

Before we’re done I wanted to thank you, I’m a Long Island resident, and I raised two children in Nassau County, and although I kind of live here (waves to Citi Field), having the Ducks out east has been great. The family experience, it’s a great place to bring children for baseball.

Bud:

Splish-Splash-LogoI love Suffolk County, I made a good choice to go out there, there is still some space, and there are some fun things to do. But when I testified for baseball to come to Long Island, I said what do we have on Long Island? We have Splish Splash, and we have the beach. And it was time for something for the families that was affordable.

Mike:

Sure, and it is great for the families with smaller children.

Bud:

Yes. And sometimes for the older kids, they will see someone a little older, maybe from a local high school, and they say, “hey, maybe someday I can be a Duck.”

Mike:

I like that.

Hey, listen, you are in the playoffs and still playing meaningful games with the Ducks. Good luck.

Bud:

Thank you.

Mike & Buddy portrait

 

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7 comments

  1. James Preller says:

    I think it’s sweet in the top photo how your knees are almost touching.

    “Security!”

  2. Tom M says:

    Good stuff!

  3. I’ve said it before: The worst thing that ever happened to Buddy Harrelson was when the Mets fired Davey Johnson and handed Buddy the managerial job he never coveted. He failed, particularly with the media, and his star dimmed. He should have been a Mets coach forever. Now he’s with the Ducks, seemingly happy, but he should be a fixture with the Mets, like Johnny Pesky was with the Red Sox.

  4. Nice interview. I always liked Buddy. Anyone that can put Pete Rose in his place is O.K. by me.

  5. IB says:

    Wow. That must have been a kick. Great interview!

  6. […] I talked to Bud Harrelson, he spoke about how he wasn’t a really good hitter, but that he felt he learned how to be […]

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